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Shabbat Parashat Bereishit 5781

Parashat Hashavua: Clothes Like a Lantern

Harav Shaul Yisraeli from Siach Shaul, p. 8

In the gemara in Sota (14a), Rabbi Simla’i expounded on the structure of the chumash as follows: The Torah begins with gemilut chasadim (acts of kindness) and ends with gemilut chasadim. It begins with gemilut chasadim, in that it says, “Hashem made for Adam and his wife garments of leather (kotnot or), and He dressed them” (Bereishit 3:21). It ends with gemilut chasadim, in that the pasuk says: “[Hashem] buried [Moshe] in the valley” (Devarim 34:6).

Adam wanted to follow his own individual path, as opposed to the one that Hashem set out for him from the outset. He wanted to find for himself that which is the good path [by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil], and he fell into the depths of sin and gave up hope [of spiritual redemption]. He was embarrassed and saw himself in full defilement. It was then that Hashem helped him by providing for Adam kotnot or. According to most commentaries, this referred to clothes that went on his body. However, the midrash (Bereishit Rabba 20:12) understands it as meaning kotnot ohr (with an aleph instead of an ayin as the first letter of the second word), which means that the garments were of lights. The Yalkut Shimoni (Bereishit 34) says that this means that He made him clothes that were like a lantern. What type of article of clothing is that?

What this means is that in the midst of the human coverings, which are ugly [in the way that they cover a person’s spiritual side], which includes a person’s aspirations and physical desires, there is a shining nucleus that can “light the person’s candle.” This nucleus is gemilut chasadim. The Torah went beyond the letter of the law and revealed to man: “You shall chose life” (Devarim 30:19). This implies that the desire to do good and perform acts of kindness exists within man, and he just needs to be encouraged and aroused to action.

The Torah begins with gemilut chasadim – the Torah is a Torah of chesed. If a person does not approach the Torah with the attempt to uncover the chesed that is imbedded in the Torah, he will not reach his goal in the world.

There is worldly wisdom in the nation of Edom, and there is Torah in Israel (Eicha Rabba 2:13). Wisdom is distant and cold; it speaks about something without demanding full identification with it. Torah consists of instructions for life, and in that way Torah is “conceived and born” based on chesed.

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